Our Collective Exhaustion
I didn’t intend to write before year’s end.
However, I’m moved to respond to something I’ve heard over and over in past days. From patients, from people beloved in my life, from acquaintances, those providing service in the world, those in my communities, I’ve heard again and again I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted. If you can’t identify this feeling somewhere in your body-mind, I feel confident there is someone close in your life who feels this way. We are collectively exhausted. While our individual positioning in the world influences our experience of these intense times, everyone’s capacity is compromised. I don’t need to detail the reasons why.
When I feel great fatigue and heaviness in my heart, remembering I am not alone is medicine. When I recall thousands or millions are feeling the texture of the same emotional cloth I am suffocating in, something happens. Physically I feel more spaciousness and lightness in my heart and chest, and more groundedness in my lower body. Things held tight soften. My haste slows. I tune into the immediacy of the world around me; light, texture, color, sound, smell. And so pausing here, on the Solstice, to remind all of us that we are not alone. As much as possible, lay down the need to produce so much just now, and know that whatever you can do today is enough. If you are feeling resourced, filled with joy and light in these times, please share that with others in your life and the world. And if you are exhausted, as so many are right now, please give yourself permission to quiet and to rest. The light is coming.
Offered with utmost humility and tender care.
For One Who Is Exhausted, a Blessing
When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight.
The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.
Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.
The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life
You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken in the race of days.
At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.
You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.
Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.
Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.
Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.
Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.
Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.
Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.
~ John O’Donahue
Photos from autumn hikes to Snow Lake and the Olallie Trail, exploring the Cedar River watershed, drinking water source for Seattle.